The SF Bucket List: Everything You Need to Do Before You Die

If you do life right, you'll live and die in San Francisco. In which case you've hopefully got some time to cross all of these must-do, only-in-SF items off of your bucket list. If you do life wrong, you'll end up moving back to whatever boring town you came from. In which case you have less time to do all of these must-do, only-in-SF things, so get on it now!

Lombard Street
Flickr/Eric Astrauskas

Bonus points if you do it dressed like Mario Kart characters.

And eat a free apple. And (hopefully) take home a free poster.

Everyone should do it at least once. Even you.

But only if you're wearing a legitimately well-planned and memorable costume. None of this "I went to American Apparel at 8pm last night and bought something tight and shiny" crap.

So. Much. Scenery.

golden gate bridge

Wear a jacket. Go to Sausalito. Get some ice cream. Ferry home.

Preferably a home opener or a playoff game, but really any game will do. Bonus points for eating garlic fries. Half credit if you're kayaking outside of it.

Get there early to watch the sunset.

Hong Kong Lounge is a good place to start. Really, you should do this a million times before you die, though.

Beach Blanket Babylon
Beach Blanket Babylon

It's the country's longest musical revue for a reason.

Easter in SF > Easter anywhere else.

It's the only place in SF where you can sip on a drink while enjoying a rainstorm with thunder and lightning.

You literally have to get it in the morning though; by afternoon they'll be long sold out.

alamo square
Flickr/Andy Langager

Oh come on, you know you want to. And even if you don't want to, one of your out-of-town friends will make you.

It really is much cooler than you think. Plus, there's beer on the ferry ride back.

The 360-degree panoramic views make the $14 martinis worth it.

Wave that rainbow flag!

Just don't jump into their paddock.

cinnamon toast

That's per slice, FYI. But so worth it.

You know, a REAL beer.

21. Devour a bacon-wrapped hot dog

On Mission St. After midnight.


buena vista cafe
Daisy Barringer/Thrillist

Or two. Or six.

And also the ballet and the symphony.

25. Play the antique arcade games at Musée Mécanique

Yes, it means going to Fisherman's Wharf, but that's fine because while you're there you can...

And eat some clam chowder in a bread bowl.

Meditation not required.

stow lake pedal boats
Flickr/Shawna Scott

Or row one if that's more your speed.

While enjoying a bottle of Champagne on the DL.

Bring your pup so he can high-five the paws below.

31. Eat seafood at Swan Oyster Depot

People have been lining up at this no-frills lunch counter since 1912 for very good reason.

sewer slides
Flickr/Braden Kowitz

BYO cardboard. (Although there's usually some there.)

The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid, and yes: even Frozen.

34. Spend a day exploring the SFMOMA

Be sure to walk through (and Instagram) Richard Serra's Sequence while you're there.

35. Enjoy a drink in the back room at Tosca

Figuring out how to get invited back there is all on you.

city lights
Flickr/Curtis Cronn

And then read it.

37. Run the Lyon St Steps

Walking and/or just looking at the view from the top is also acceptable.

And take in the view.

Bring a date, 'cause it's for two.

And climb the Filbert Steps to get there.

hot chocolate sundae ice cream
Flickr/Derek Bruff

Theres a reason tourists like to go there. Trust.

Get the liquid courage from the very strong martinis.

Or fine: CDs.

treasure island music festival
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Theres a reason tourists like to go there. Trust.

Get the liquid courage from the very strong martinis.

Or fine: CDs.

44. Go to at least one day of the Treasure Island Music Festival

And definitely ride the Ferris wheel while you're there.

At 938ft, you'll be at the highest point in the whole city.

46. Eat at a food truck

Eat every single food truck.

ferry building
Flickr/Jim Nix

Farmers market, oysters, cheese, hamburgers... OK, maybe two days?

Just get there early if you want to get a good spot.

49. Eat "The Big Donut" at Bob's Donuts

Finish it in under two minutes to get your $8 back and your name listed on the Hall of Fame!

palace of arts sf

Wedding dress not required.

It doesn't have to be from La Taqueria, but it should probably be from La Taqueria.

It was built in Japan and then shipped to San Francisco for the 1894 World's Fair.

Even better if it's bottomless.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

54. Walk through the two-story Gingerbread House at the Fairmont Hotel

And then walk the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.

55. Wait in line for the focaccia at Liguria Bakery

But get there early if you want to choose which of the 10 kinds you want or you’ll get “stuck” with onion.

56. Indulge in a super-sized sub at Submarine Center

And explore West Portal while you're there.

57. Spot the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill

Pro tip: Telegraph Hill isn't the only place you can spot them. Keep an eye out in Cole Valley and Fort Mason.

palace hotel sf
Flicke/Jefferey Zeldman

It's been an elegant tradition since the early 1900s.

59. Eat ramen in Japantown

It doesn't have to be the fried chicken ramen at Suzu Noodle House, but you won't be sad if it is.

60. Get a drink at every single one of SF's oldest bars

Yes, all 18 of them.

lovers lane
Flickr/Ian Abbott

Preferably with your lover. Hand-holding not required because, ew, PDA.

62. Explore the Sutro Baths

And then get a cocktail at the Cliff House (before the sun goes down).

63. Eat the "fried with pride" fried chicken from Frisco Fried

With a side of waffles, of course.

fleet week
Flickr/Dvid Shub

Even better if you do it from a friend's rooftop.

65. Swim in the Pacific Ocean (sans wetsuit)

You can do it on New Year's Day with everyone else or whenever you're feeling brave, but it only counts if you dunk your head.

California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences

There's a new 21+ adventure every Thursday night, including an aquarium, planetarium, four-story rainforest, and natural history museum. Be sure to say hey to Claude, the albino alligator, and the African penguins!

Hope you're not afraid of the dark.

You'll experience 360-degree panoramic views of the city (and it's free). Even better if you stay and explore the museum.

the thinker
Flickr/Jeff Tabaco

It's one of Rodin's original 28 bronze castings... though you should probably just make a day of it -- the Legion of Honor has tons of amazing fine art.

Technically it's "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass," which makes it even better.

71. Sail across the bay

Dock at Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon for lunch.

It's a classic SF institution, plus the killer martinis are served with what's left in the shaker.

golden gate cookie factory
Flickr/Karlis Dambrans

And taste them while they're warm, flat, and fresh out of the oven.

It's SF's very best tree swing thanks to the stunning views.

75. Grow old here

Herb Caen said it best when he said, "One day if I do go to heaven... I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.'"

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Daisy Barringer is a freelance writer who grew up in SF. Herb Caen is her hero. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.